Debating India

MAHARASHTRA

Failure of Justice

Monday 4 December 2006

The Dalit riots that brought most parts of Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, and some parts of Maharashtra to a halt, were waiting to happen. They were waiting for a catalyst and this was provided by the beheading of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Kanpur.

The Dalits who form around 15 per cent of the population of Maharashtra have been on the edge of angry frustration ever since four members of a Dalit family were raped and killed over a land dispute in Khairlanje in Bhandara district of the state. The government did nothing though the incident took place two months ago. Thereafter, there were two more incidents, where in one case in Beed district a Dalit man was allegedly chopped to death by an upper caste family. The culprits in this instance too have not been booked.

Mumbai has three Dalit newspapers which chronicle Dalit atrocities and their plight. Some Dalit youth said they heard rumblings of a revolt in the offing, but did not know how or when it would occur. Whether this is true or not, hopefully the state government will have a thorough enquiry into the riot and not only into the burning of the Deccan Queen train as has been announced. It is important to know the forces that orchestrated the riots. The Dalits are not the only ones feeling marginalised when it comes to the dispensation of justice. Muslims and non-Muslims alike are appalled at the government’s failure to take action against the guilty who killed and plundered during the 1993 riots in Mumbai. The Srikrishna Commission report that went into the riots was shelved by the Shiv Sena-BJP government as the report held many Sena leaders guilty. The Congress, however, said it would implement the report if it came to power, but jettisoned this promise after it rode to power. The serial bomb blasts that ripped through Mumbai three months later were said to be a revenge for the atrocities committed against Muslims during the riots. Accused after accused in the bomb blasts case have said that they became willing tools of Tiger Memon, the brain behind the serial bomb blasts, because they believed they were doing it as revenge for what the community suffered during the riots.

The point of bringing this issue up is to indicate the failure of the government in giving justice. Whether Dalits or Muslims, the stories are the same, denial of justice, failure to take action against criminals who perpetrate communal atrocities. They then fall easy prey to troublemakers who have their own political agenda.

See online : Asian Age

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